There are a lot of cool things out there that make us wonder — do they really work? In our I Tried It series, we set out to use them in the real world and have determined that, in fact, they really do.
The Tester: Brandon Carte, former frequent gym-goer who has been stuck in a workout rut.
The Brief: The pandemic caused nationwide gym closures and equipment shortages, and it also snatched my drive to stay in shape. To help reignite my fitness journey, I tried the Tempo Studio, a new home fitness system that combines weightlifting, high-intensity interval training, and mobility classes.
Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve maintained a consistent routine of weightlifting at the gym and eating a high-protein diet to gain muscle mass. But when my gym closed and the pool where I swam laps was indefinitely shut down, my fitness routine fell by the wayside. I started stress eating, and I gained 19 pounds.
I first heard about Tempo in a TechCrunch article, which described it as “the Peloton of barbells.” The San Francisco-based company’s Tempo Studio is an easel-shaped, at-home fitness machine that features a variety of weight plates that you attach to an included 25-pound barbell or set of 7.5-pound dumbbells.
Instructors explain each workout on screen while doing the entire routine alongside you, as the machine uses sensors to track your movement to ensure you’re exercising with safe and proper form.
I set out to test the Tempo Studio in the hopes of whipping myself back into shape and to see for myself if it was as cool as it looks.
A Sleek, Space-Saving Design That Smartly Stores Equipment
The Tempo Studio is a 6-foot-tall gadget that encapsulates a large touch screen, some speakers, and motion sensors. Its 2-foot wide A-frame cabinet, which is available in white or black, stands entirely on its own and makes efficient use of space, with no mounting or drilling needed.
There are racks on the back for hanging a barbell and two dumbbells, a shelf to stow a rolled-up fitness mat and foam roller, and two soft-closing cabinet doors to store 115 pounds’ worth of rubber-coated weight plates and six weight collars. Everything is neat and has its place, which is so important when you’re tight on space.
Efficient design aside, I live in a one-bedroom, 900-square-foot apartment and I just barely had enough space to set up the Tempo Studio in my dining room. The most important thing you should know is that you’ll need 5 feet of free space in front of the machine in order for it to effectively track your movements and count your reps, and it needs to be close enough to your router to get a strong enough Wi-Fi signal.
Setup Couldn’t Be Easier and Quality is Top-Notch
I was blown away by the quality craftsmanship of the Tempo Studio — its equipment feels like something out of an expensive fitness studio.
The barbell is just as hefty as a commercial-grade one, the included collars are premium, and the weight plates are rubberized, which makes them easier to grip while swapping out weights. Tempo even includes a nice workout mat, a foam roller, and a heart rate monitor that syncs to your machine.
Selecting Your Workout
Tempo comes preloaded with a library of hundreds of on-demand classes and programs that you stream. Some are geared toward strength training, others have a higher cardio focus, and there are dozens that target specific muscle groups.
There’s a home tab that highlights featured classes and sequential programs that are focused on a specific fitness goal. Classes can be filtered by length, difficulty, or trainer. You can even break things down a little further and sort classes by HIIT, strength training, and mobility.
I would have liked there to be an option to sort by muscle group, which would make finding classes for leg day a bit faster, although this feature will come in a future software update.
As someone who normally works out alone, I was surprised at how quickly I was drawn in by Tempo’s instructor-led fitness classes. The Tempo Studio makes working out feel way less lonely, even though you do the workouts solo. It automatically gave me suggested weight recommendations and its trainers made me feel like I was working out with a friend.
Tempo also takes things one step further with its leaderboard. For each workout, there’s a small scoreboard on the right side of the screen that ranks each person who has taken the class on both a total rep and a total weight basis. As you do each circuit of exercises, whether they be barbell curls, lunges, or pushups, the Tempo counts each rep for you and continuously updates the leaderboard throughout the entire class.
I’m a competitive person, so the leaderboard really pushed me to get that one extra repetition in so I could pull ahead of the others.
During the workout, the Tempo screen also displays a countdown timer for the specific set, my target reps, heart rate, and the remaining time of the class. And thanks to the fitness stations’s sensor, it also corrects improper form when necessary via on-screen alerts.
Exercising with the Tempo Studio felt incredibly futuristic, and its integrated artificially intelligent sensors help me push myself to reach my goals, while doing it safely.
The Tempo Studio is not perfect, though. The sensor occasionally missed rep counts, and there were some exercises it wasn’t able to track, including hip bridges and a few core exercises.
While users have the ability to adjust the volume of the instructor’s voice along with the volume of the background music, I would have liked to be able to wear Bluetooth headphones for my late-night workouts or sync the Tempo with my Spotify music library. Both are features that the brand is considering adding for a future update.
Although the Tempo has an extensive catalog of pre-recorded workout classes, one of the things that made Tempo appealing to me was its live classes. Unfortunately, they have been temporarily paused out of caution for the safety of Tempo employees in light of coronavirus. So, I wasn’t able to take part in one.
Michelle Grabau, Tempo’s head of fitness, told me that after the public health situation improves, Tempo will ramp up its live class schedule. She assured me that in the future, there are plans to record at least two live classes each day. Tempo is still actively uploading prerecorded workouts almost daily.
I’m hopeful that live classes will make the Tempo even more personable. During live classes, instructors will have the ability to give shout outs to users, recommend they add or remove weights, and even call them out for improper form.
For the sake of privacy, it’s worth mentioning that the Tempo Studio does not have a camera or microphone built into it, and only uses a 3D sensor. The sensor produces an ambiguous image that doesn’t show instructors any identifiable features of you or your home.
Grabau also told me that during live classes, instructors can only read your username, see your heart rate, heart rate zone, and your current rep count.
With a starting price of $1,995 and a $250 delivery fee, the Tempo Studio does not run cheap. There’s also a mandatory $39 per month membership fee to access the live and on-demand classes. It’s worth mentioning that this fee isn’t per user, but per household — meaning families or roommates can share a membership.
Becoming a member of the Tempo fam is an investment: roughly $2,700 for the first year and $468 each year after that. But for comparison’s sake, unlimited classes at Orangetheory cost around $1,900 a year, a basic annual membership at Equinox costs $2,220, and the Peloton costs roughly $3,000 for your first year of ownership. The competing Tonal fitness station costs $4,328 for your first year of use — that is, if you add the recommended accessories kit.
Tempo offers interested buyers the option to finance your unit over 12, 24, or 36 months with varying interest rates, which may help lessen the blow.
One Major Caveat Worth Considering
As is true with any smart, internet-enabled gadget, the Tempo Studio‘s operating system could become sluggish over time when it’ll likely require future software updates. Fortunately, the Tempo Studio is packed with a newer 10th-generation i5 processor, Nvidia graphics card, and it supports both wired and wireless Internet connections. It also is backed by a 3-year warranty. All these factors should extend its shelf life.
If for any reason Tempo decides internally, or external forces decide for them that they will no longer be producing classes or even hosting them online, you might not be able to use the Tempo Studio like you can now. The good news is its included weights, barbells, and dumbbells should last a lifetime.
It’s also worth noting that the current delivery window is 8 to 10 weeks from point of purchase.
As someone who prefers lifting weights to other forms of exercise, the Tempo Studio was an absolute joy to use — I’ve even started to see results from the 19 classes I’ve taken with it. Tempo brings something to the table that few other interactive home workouts offer: the ability to exercise with weights and track your movements.
Despite its steep asking price, I believe that the Tempo Studio is worth it, especially given the current public health situation. I personally don’t plan to step into a gym or boutique fitness studio anytime soon, but I found this device to be a fun, engaging alternative.
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